GCI and Disney Animation Research Library Collaborative Research Project
 

cel of Snow White showing signs of deterioration
 

The Disney Animation Research Library (ARL) is the world's largest archive of animation art, housing approximately sixty-five million pieces of animation art created over a period of more than eighty years by the Walt Disney Animation Studios division. The collection includes original plastic animation cels and backgrounds, as well as conceptual design work, animation drawings, model sheets, layouts, exposure sheets, models, audio and video tapes, reference photographs, and books.

The animation cel collection provides a unique and invaluable source of cellulose nitrate and cellulose acetate, two classes of plastic particularly vulnerable to deterioration. While ARL's state-of-the-art storage facilities have extended the life of these materials, the exact aging process depends on a number of factors, including the composition of the plastics. A number of cels in the archive are already showing typical signs of cellulose plastic deterioration, such as yellowing, warping, and cracking, as well as the visible pulling away of artist's paint from the plastic support.

animation cel showing signs of buckling
 

The GCI and Disney ARL will study this collection to better understand the changes that occur in these materials over time, and the possible causes of these changes, with the ultimate aim of improving ways of preserving not only Disney's animation cels, but also any object made from the same types of plastic.

The initial phase of research will involve GCI scientists assessing the best methods for the in situ identification and condition monitoring of cels made with cellulose nitrate and acetate, as well as examining their physical and thermal properties in detail.

Last updated: June 2014